Geek culture

Beautification of geeks


Beautification of geeks: I just finished writing a Nikkei Business Online column (Japanese), which will be up on Friday.  This time, I wrote about Marissa Meyer.

As you may well know, she is a new-type geek - cute and fashionable.  The image is somewhat different from the "traditional" geek girl stereotype - no make-up, t-shirt and sweat, and thick glasses.

I sense that there are more of these new type geek lately - not only girls but also for boys - than before.  I was discussing this "beautification of geeks" issue with my friends and we came up with a theory.

Actually, I wrote about the start of this trend circa 2006 in my Japanese blog, when Web2.0 was a trendy buzz word.  At that time, I thought it was because Web world crossed the way with advertisement/media world.

But this time, we concluded that the trend is caused by "San Francisco move".  Now a lot of web/mobile start-up is located in San Francisco, where young engineers live, rather than the traditional South Bay area, more family-friendly-but-boring neighborhood.

People in the big city are more fashion conscious to begin with.  In addition, in San Francisco, they've got the most fashionable species in the world - gay people, and they have become more and more important in this geek world for user interface/design skills.

So now, San Franciscans are the trend-setter in the geek culture, thus beautification.  For me, who is no makeup plus sweat pants type, the center of the geek world is becoming more and more alien.  Sigh...

A teen runs chased by zombies, funded by Kickstarter..


I have a teenage son.  He teaches me a lot of things how young people nowadays interact with technology. Recently, he started to jog quite often.  Before, he hated it because it is boring.  He says now it is fun because of a new iPhone game called "Zombies, Run!".

It is a real-world role playing game, with a pretty elaborate story.  Voice tells a story of a post apocalypse world where a whole bunch of zombies roam, and humans live in a colony.  The runner is supposed to pick up food and supplies for the people in the colony, outrunning zombies.  (Zombies' brains are dead so they don't have good coordination and cannot run fast. ^^;)

And he says he "funded" the game creator, through Kickstarter.  He paid a few dollars from his allowance because he thought it was a great idea and wanted to play the game.

Wow, how did he found out?  Of course, through his favorite podcast.

OMG, young people nowadays...

Saw "TSN", was quoted on "WSJ"


I went to see the new movie "The Social Network", the story of Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, this morning. I went to Century Cinema 16 in Mountain View with a friend for 11am show. When I got there, the place was nearly empty. A few nice old ladies were in front of us to buy tickets, and they didn't even know what Facebook was. The theater was less than half-full, mostly with the same age group people as these ladies.

Then, when we came out, the theater lobby was BUZZING with full-house people, many sitting around on the floor eating their late lunch. I thought, "OMG, good thing we came early. Friday afternoon is a busy time!"

Then, the more surprise came when I got out of the building - a HUGE line, going all around the building, and much more were just arriving on the phalanx of black buses.  It reminded me of the early Spongebob episode, in which zillions of anchovies on the tour bus stormed into Krusty Krub and horrified Mr. Krub muttered "anchovies..."

They turned out to be Facebook employees. I asked one of them and confirmed, because they all had employee badges, but the badge did not clearly said the company name. My friend, an "industry insider", also told me that Google people were supposed to come, from the nearby Googleplex.

So I took a photo of the line with my Android phone and quickly uploaded to Twitter. Then when my lunch was over, I noticed that another friend, a WSJ reporter, asked me if they could use the photo for the article, and confirmed a few points. I said, sure, go ahead. A few more minutes later, it was already up on WSJ site. Wow, that was quick!!

As for the movie itself, I liked it a lot. I already read the original novel "Accidental Billionaire" and knew the story. The film basically follows the story, with a few original additions, like the opening and the ending, which I LIKED A LOT. Characters, lines and behaviors are very well written, constructed and acted. I think the main actor Jesse Eisenberg did a great job in acting this "nerdy jerk", maintaining the viewers' sympathy till the end. And the contrasts - East vs. West, geek vs. suits, traditional ethics vs. entrepreneurs' justice, which were also vividly depicted in the original novel, were visually stunning in the film.

Go watch it. Even if you don't know Facebook, it is a good movie.


Update of Shogi book open-source translation

As my previous entry, an interesting experiment to translate a Japanese book into other languages is way under way, and there are some exciting updates from the original author Mr. Mochio Umeda.

He showed the 1st version English translation, led by Shota Yakushiji, to his American friends, and their reaction was quite pleasing.

"The translated text is quite clear; there was no sense of “what does this mean?” or, am I getting the right meaning?” So that is very good. In some places, there are Japanese characters still retained in the translation, which gives rise to some ambiguity, but overall the number of such instances is small. There are a few grammatical errors, but I think that is inevitable. Even when there is such an error, the meaning of the text is still clear, which is very good.

So - I would say the quality of English is very good for practical purposes, but not great. Another way to look at it is: a web reader would find the text perfectly fine (i.e., willing to put up with minor inconvenience), but someone who has paid for a translated copy of the book might not. Given that this is an ‘open-source’ effort, I think it is VERY good."

"I've been following the translation project with interest, but today was the first that I've actually taken a look at the English-lang version.

First reaction: Wow. This is actually a readable piece of work!

By readable I mean both (1) not perfect, but perfectly tolerable and (2) probably more enjoyable if I was only genuinely interested in the subject. I think readers who are interested in the topic would be willing to overcome some lumpy / awkward translations anyway, but I -- as someone who doesn't find the subject as interesting (sorry!) -- too find it quite acceptable.

Congratulations. This is a super-exciting example of how an open-sourced volunteer translation can do, on the cheap and with speed!"

While English version was up and is currently edited on open-source manner, French version project manager Mr. Yoshihisa Yamada is expanding his reach.  He reached out to English/French bilingual person to help out, based on the 1st draft of English version. 

It is unfortunate but simple fact that there are more "English/xxx" bilingual people than "Japanese/xxx" people, so by utilizing the English version, albeit imperfect, they can broaden the potential open-source translation community by probably in the order of x100.

So Mr. Yamada decided to expand his horizon even more, by soliciting volunteers to start other "English/xxx" projects.  He sent e-mails to all the embassies in Tokyo from all around the world, asking to forward the request to join the effort to Shogi organization in their own countries.  So far, he received a few replies, including good possibility of "English/Polish" and "English/Spanish" projects.

The reason that I am interested in this project is because I - as many other Japanese-origin Net-people, including Mr. Umeda himself - have been struggling to find ways to participate in "English-centric Web world," and this could be a breakthrough solution.  It has been a hot topic among Net opinion leaders in Japan, as many are concerned that Japan is becoming more and more isolated from the central trend in the Web.  European languages are similar to English to start with, and top intellects in emerging countries have to learn English.  But Japanese is so different, and at the same time, Japan is too big an economy and people can do perfectly fine without learning English thus less incentive to do so.

So I am keeping curious eyes on this project.  Any of the readers of this blog is welcome to help out, of course!!


Open-souce style translation project "Shogi" book

There have been lots of pessimism about Japan's future in Japanese blogosphere, but I don't necessarily agree.  Here is one breath of fresh air.

Mr. Mochio Umeda, my friend and mentor, is a well-known management consultant based in Silicon Valley, and is a charisma among young and tech-savvy Japanese youth, with a series of his best-seller books, such as "Web Shinkaron (Web Evolution)".  He recently published a book about his off-time passion, "Shogi" (Japanese chess), in which he talks about the meaning of "watching" shogi as a layman, including his conversation with the top Shogi champion Yoshiharu Habu.

The Web-guru Umeda, shortly before the book's official release, declared in his blog that he opens up the content of this book to any "open-source translation" effort to any foreign language, under the agreement with the publisher.  He says he wanted to let many people know about the wonderful world of Shogi around the world, and he wanted to experiment such "open-source translation" format in the context of Japan, where open source style is not as prevalent as in Europe or the U.S.

That was April 20, and on April 29, a few days after the book's release, a Japanese college student started the English-translation project, with a help of a few core people over the net.  The next day, French-translation project started in the same manner.

And today, May 8, the initial translation is uploaded on the Web.  It is amazing to see such speed and passion.  If you take the normal steps (publisher negotiates the translation rights with a foreign publisher and hire translator....etc...), it probably will take more than a year.

Yoshiharu Habu and Modern Shogi

Now to be honest, I have not read the book yet.  I don't know Shogi.  But I still think it is just GREAT.  Shota Yakushiji, the leader, says in his blog, "I know the quality of translation is far from perfect.  But WE WANT TO BRIGHTEN THE NOW GLOOMY JAPANESE WEB."

They need your - English-speaking reader of this blog - help.  Please feel free to go to their website and help them with correcting English.  They welcome any help, and if you are interested in the Shogi game, that would be even better. 


This is SO STUPID and FUNNY!!

I had a hard time hanging onto my chair reading this Japanese discussion board 2channel last night...

Earlier this week a Labour MP called for the Union flag to be redesigned to include the Welsh Dragon.

Then the Japanese 2-channeler came up with this.                        







and MORE!!

2-channel creative Union Jack + Wales Flag

And OMG... UK's top newspaper

Telegraph Dec. 1  Japan offers to solve "Union Jack Problem"

There are MUCH FUNNIER ONE on the original thread than the ones picked up by Telegraph.

And I am SURE that the country who invented MONTY PYSON don't take this up as a POLITICAL issue!!  (Funny that many 2-channel participants are SERIOUSLY worried about it!)


Originally posted on

Why do geeks love ninjas?

AanMy geeky son's recent favorite shows are "Mythbusters" on Discovery Channel, and "Ask a Ninja" podcast.  Recently, "Mythbusters" aired an episode about ninja myths, with Ask a Ninja Ninja appearing briefly, so he was totally electrified with it.

Ninjas and geeks have lots of things in common - or rather say, the only major difference between them is that geeks don't assassin people.  They both are highly-trained professionals, their main mission is to collect and manage information (including "hacking"), they work behind-the-scenes most of the time, they form closely knit communities, and they are mysterious and powerful.  Ninjas used various proprietary technology, such as engineering special weapons or whipping up secret poison or medicine.

Unlike the public image in the U.S., ninjas usually don't fight - their techniques, known as "ninjutsu", are oriented towards running away.  Occasionally, they may get a mission to assassin someone or to guard VIPs, but most of the time, they just collect information.  According to Japanese Wikipedia, ninjas even worked to take people's opinion polls in the peacetime.

So, are you a ninja-wannabe geek?  Well, there are two major ninja clan's hometowns in Japan, Koga and Iga, both located deep in the mountains between Nagoya and Kyoto.  They have the real ninja houses, one-day ninja training courses, ninja museums and all kinds of other ninja attractions.  In Koga, they will hold "All Japan Ninja Championship" in October, incluing events like shuriken throwing, walking on the water with mizugumo, jumping over the fence and others. 

Oh, and by the way, in Mythbusters, "walking on the water with mizugumo" was busted (meaning "it is a myth - not a fact"), but they use a long supporting stick in this competition and you are actually supposed to do it.  So, Adam-san and Jamie-san, would you like to try it again?

Koga Ninpou no Sato
Koga Ninja Championship
Iga Ninja no Sato